Ramadan is a period not only of fasting and restraint, but also of reflection, judging by posts from many Muslim bloggers. Syrians (whether Muslim or not) are no exception, taking this period to reflect upon philosophy, patriotism, and Ramadan itself, among other things.
Abu Fares shares his private thoughts about Ramadan:
I also see no reason to live if my vanity is not subdued by my private notion of faith. I have rejected trekking along a railroad track that could only reach a predetermined destination. I have as well abandoned the delusion of sauntering in an open desert without a compass in hand. My chosen path is shunned at from believers and agnostics. It’s an inacceptable compromise to both, a shortcut leading to a cul-de-sac at best. Yet I persist and when the moment comes and I can’t walk no more, I will look behind from wherever I happen to be and lip-sing with Frank Sinatra: “I did it my way”.
The post garnered a variety of comments. From KJ:
How I live my religion is that religion is a pact exclusively between me and God and no one else has the right to probe into it. You can't standardize something that depends highly on individualistic responses and feelings to the subject matter. I keep my own values, which are mostly guided by religion, and I have other built in values that happen to correspond to the values of my religion (like not drinking). I try to seek knowledge and not limit myself, as well as try to find the formula that JAZZ mentioned. It is a difficult process, but in the end when I manage it (and I know I will), I will be greatly pleased because I know I would have fulfilled, hopefully, my religious and spiritual duties as well as have seen most or all what I would have liked to see and experience in my non-confined life while maintaining my social standards and values.
My argument is that the richness and the colorfulness of a person's life has nothing to do with his/her religion, that, in my humble opinion, is also applied to one's achievement in life.
An atheist can become a nuclear scientist if he has the faculty, a highly devoted Muslim can be a successful poet if he has the potential.. and so on..
The challenge which is facing Muslims nowadays is this: could a devoted Muslim live his life to the full and enjoy it, and at the same time keep his values intact?
The answer is yes, we can Abu Fares, we can… and if I fail to find the formula, then it is my own shortcoming not Islam's…
But the reflection during this holy month was not only focused on the fast – Decentering Damascus discusses what it means to belong to Syria…
With a country and our belongings to it, the process becomes rather complex. Each Syrian loves her Syria, and each fights or not, to maintain the Syria she sees or wants to see growing. I think most of our belonging to Syria is either fictionist if not imagined. For some, Syria lies in Syrian food, for others it lies in old cafes in Old Damascus. Some belongings to Syria lie in the longing for her. I think some belongings are “touristy” when it comes to Syria's traditional atmosphere.
Syrian becomes its “ornamentation”.
I believe racism, sexism, sectarianism, human rights’ abuse, are unconsciously celebrated in the Syrian daily life. Just like the Syrians are now the prime reason for everything wrong happens in Lebanon, the Iraqi refugees are the prime reason of everything wrong happens in Syria, if one caught AIDS, it's an Iraqi girl, if one cannot find a job, it's the Iraqis’ fault, if a family are sleeping in the streets, it’s the Iraqis fault. Syrians now, and away from the regime's tyranny, are constructing the “Syrianism” within this binary opposition “Syrians/Iraqis”, as a continuous process that started with the “Syrians/Lebanon”. Syrians are formulating a belonging to Syrian in opposition to the “new comers” of Syria.
…While Wassim of Maysaloon discusses his recent trip to Syria and what it meant to him:
The trip was over far too quickly, but a terrible weight was on my mind by the end of the first week. This wasn't just “Syria” for me anymore, an artificial state with it's own flag, national anthem and football team. This was “the beating heart of Arabism” as Mansfeld put it, for Muslims, Christians and Jews it is the land where they believe the final showdown between good and evil will begin, where Jesus will return. I can't emphasise the sheer weight of seeing history living and breathing in front of me, both in the streets of Damascus and in it's National Museum. Stereotypes which had been imposed on me since birth by virtue of an education in the West were now being completely stripped away. I didn't just understand Edward Said, I lived what he had said. I also felt frightened because for the first time in my life, I felt acutely aware of who “I” am, not just a Syrian, but an Arab and a Muslim. Both of these terms I was to recognise carry with them immense responsibilities and a breathtaking shift in the lense one might normally view the world with. They have been weighing heavily on my mind since I got back and this is where my post becomes serious.
Brutally Honest shares her feelings the power of words:
Simple encouraging words that are from the heart, are of great value to me, simple words that I end up printing out and sticking onto my monitor to be a reminder of how loved and appreciated I am. The worst thing that you can do is not to show your appreciation and concern towards someone who is of value and importance to you, or not to express your feelings and gratitude towards a loved one. Forgetting that every moment in life is of great value and that life will pass sooner than you think and then it will be too late.
Creative Commons-licensed photo by DWinton